“Startling, visceral, and heartbreaking.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
From acclaimed author Dawn Ius comes an edge-of-your-seat reimagining of one of the most chilling mysteries in modern history—Lizzie Borden.
Seventeen-year-old Lizzie Borden has never been kissed. Polite but painfully shy, Lizzie prefers to stay in the kitchen, where she can dream of becoming a chef and escape her reality. With tyrannical parents who force her to work at the family’s B&B and her blackout episodes—a medical condition that has plagued her since her first menstrual cycle—Lizzie longs for a life of freedom, the time and space to just figure out who she is and what she wants.
Enter the effervescent, unpredictable Bridget Sullivan. Bridget has joined the B&B’s staff as the new maid, and Lizzie is instantly drawn to her artistic style and free spirit—even her Star Wars obsession is kind of cute. The two of them forge bonds that quickly turn into something that’s maybe more than friendship.
But when her parents try to restrain Lizzie from living the life she wants, it sparks something in her that she can’t quite figure out. Her blackout episodes start getting worse, her instincts less and less reliable. Lizzie is angry, certainly, but she also feels like she’s going mad…
Readers will recognize the name: in a small Massachusetts town, 17-year-old Lizzie Borden works as a chef at her family’s bed-and-breakfast, beneath the punishing thumbs of her father and stepmother. Lizzie’s longing for freedom grows stronger when bright, worldly Bridget Sullivan comes to work as a maid at the inn. The girls develop a friendship that swiftly becomes more, but Lizzie suffers from blackouts, and as her parents’ abuse intensifies, she can’t always control her actions. Ius applies the same conceit she used in Anne and Henry (2015)—historical characters in a contemporary setting—to the story of Lizzie Borden. It’s an odd concept, especially as Ius mostly recreates what’s known of those days before the infamous 1892 murders. Despite the modern-day setting, much of the language still feels historical, due in part to Lizzie’s isolation and religious upbringing. Still, Lizzie’s relationship with Bridget provides a strong emotional core. More than a century later, interest in the Borden murders has not waned, and this will attract plenty of readers because of it. — Maggie Reagan
The story of Lizzie Borden, creatively reimagined and set in the 21st century.
Present-tense narrator Lizbeth Borden lives with her father and stepmother in the Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts. The white 17-year-old’s life isn’t easy: her emotionally and physically abusive parents have convinced the devoutly Catholic Lizzie that she’s too fragile to survive without them. Lizzie’s intense sense of Catholic guilt prevents her from pushing back, and her older sister’s escape from their toxic home makes Lizzie’s plight all the more painful. Lizzie is mentally and physically ill; she suffers from depression and anxiety and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a chronic condition aggravated by her period. The illness makes her do strange, inexplicable—and sometimes horrific—things she can’t remember doing. Enter Bridget Sullivan, the B&B’s new maid, a lovely white girl with an Irish accent. Lizzie is attracted to her from the moment she shows up on the Bordens’ doorstep. Bridget is everything Lizzie isn’t: well-traveled, sexually liberated, and free from shame and self-doubt. As the girls’ romantic relationship deepens, Bridget’s belief that Lizzie can be more than just her “father’s silly little girl” gives Lizzie the strength to disobey her parents and the power to take control of her own life. In this page-turner, Ius adroitly combines fact and hypothesis to explore one of the most notorious and unsolved murder cases in U.S. history.
Startling, visceral, and heartbreaking. (author’s note) (Fiction. 15-adult)